RESTORATION experts at Lincoln Cathedral say that there is an “urgent need” to find new limestone, as they are close to running out of it for vital repairs.
The cathedral works manager, Carol Heidschuster, said that the current quarry, in uphill Lincoln, has about five years of stone left. The cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone a year for maintenance and repairs.
The head stonemason, Paul Booth, said that stone had always been quarried locally because it had to be matched in quality and colour for the same weather. “The stone is there: it’s just that Lincoln is so developed now that all the best quarry sites have been built on,” he said.
“We just have to use our team of geologists and professionals to find the right source.”
It is hoped that 11 sites in uphill Lincoln can be protected so that Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle can be supplied with limestone to maintain them for 1000 more years. The mineral-rich sites would be guarded from development to protect limestone, which was used to build the iconic structures, dating from the 11th century.
Lincolnshire County Council has drawn up a plan to ensure that access is maintained to the ancient rock formations that are crucial for rebuilding and repairing the castle and cathedral. Experts said that securing these sites was vital to keeping craftsmen equipped with the local limestone they would need for centuries to come.
Limestone has been dug from the cathedral’s quarry in Riseholme Road for the past 150 years, but, in 2008, there were only eight to ten years’ worth remaining. Now, larger blocks are imported from France.
The head of Visit Lincoln, Emma Tatlow, said: “The cathedral and castle are serious drivers of the local visitor economy. This heritage needs to be protected and preserved. Local resources, such as limestone, can be used to preserve these buildings for future generations to enjoy.”
The escarpment on which the cathedral stands was first quarried by the Romans in the first century AD to build their fort. Both the castle, built by William the Conqueror, and the cathedral were built with the same stone.
An executive member for economic development, Councillor Colin Davie, said: “These old buildings have to be continuously maintained and preserved, and that can only happen if there is easy access to the raw materials, which we must be able to source with the minimum amount of disruption.”
The potential quarry sites are currently used for allotments and playing fields. They include King George V Playing Field, off Macaulay Drive, St Giles; an allotment site off Wragby Road; fields at Clayton and Lindum sports associations; and Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School.
Adrian Winkley, of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We’re proposing to protect potential sources of building stone for the repair and conservation of Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle — not just because of their historic and symbolic importance, but also their status as major tourist attractions.”
The council’s new measures will not completely block housing developments, but builders would be forced to look at whether large supplies of rock there could be extracted before work begins.